With all the reports of Saudi Arabia using American weapons to kill people in Yemen, it’s easy to overlook Egypt, a quieter if not quite silent Saudi partner fighting in Yemen’s civil war. Its reluctance to get any more involved than it currently is comes from experience. It lost some 25,000 soldiers when it sent troops to Yemen during the North Yemeni Civil War of the 1960s – a campaign that led only to economic calamity at home. This round, it made sure to limit its involvement to naval operations and air support despite Saudi pleads to commit ground troops.
And it makes sense that this would be the case. Egypt has a vested interest in Yemen (otherwise it wouldn’t have sent troops back in the 1960s), but unlike Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, its interests are not on the ground. Instead, its interests are in the water. It needs to maintain freedom of navigation throughout the Red Sea, which runs from Egypt’s Suez Canal in the north to the Bab el-Mandeb in